How to Invest in Your People Without Spending a Lot

Research shows people tend to quit their bosses, not their jobs. According to Gallup polls, managers almost single-handedly make or break employee engagement levels.

Oftentimes we think we have to make big monetary investments to show our employees we value and appreciate them, but investing in your people in ways that speak to their intrinsic motivation pays bigger dividends.

Here are five ways to invest in your people that don’t cost much.

1. Recognize Them

You can recognize your employees in many simple ways, such as giving them handwritten thank-you notes and publicly praising them.

You can also do this by acknowledging their birthdays, hosting a monthly party to celebrate company anniversaries, putting photos of them around the office, creating “above and beyond” programs where peers can recognize each other, using the company newsletter or email to give shout-outs about special personal events or giving out nice lapel pins for various achievements.

2. Build Community

Most employees want to know you actually care about them as people, so spend time getting to know them.

Ask about their family, give them your time through regularly scheduled coffee chats, host potlucks, ask them what they care about, participate in annual events like “Bring Your Kids To Work Day” to learn more about them or engage in a community outreach event together. Allow and encourage them to start and run various support or life groups to meet within the office to discuss important life topics together, have a company sports team, provide snack and lunch items in the break room to encourage them to eat together or join them for lunch.

3. Offer Non-Traditional Benefits

Many of the companies that score highest on the annual Great Place to Work survey offer benefits that are different from the norm.

These could include giving excess trade show swag to employees for their personal use, offering telecommuting options and flex time, providing fitness center discounts, hosting company contests with prizes for health and wellness activities and offering paid sabbaticals on major milestone anniversaries. You could also offer services on-site that employees pay for but are an added convenience for them by cutting down on drive time, like on-site childcare, mobile car wash, annual flu shot clinics and bi-annual health fairs.

4. Develop Them

Most people want an opportunity to grow and learn, but few feel like they can do so on company time. Creating a culture where employees know that you care about their development is crucial for job satisfaction.

You can do things like offer them advancement opportunities and make sure they know if they’re promotion-ready, provide trainings on industry-related and personal-interest topics, give them time to focus on themselves for reflection, dreaming and planning, offer reimbursement for professional development opportunities that increase their ability to do their job better, involve them in the organizational big picture, subscribe to a variety of magazines and newspapers and keep them around the office, or attend an annual TEDx conference or similar innovative event together.

5. Give Autonomy and Trust Them

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is one who has the sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

This can look like giving employees 20% of their time to spend on brainstorming new ideas, setting their own schedules, loosening the reins and letting go of control, and letting them experiment and try new ideas.

Investing in Your People

When implemented, these investments will boost morale and increase employee satisfaction, engagement, commitment and retention. And each of those outcomes has been scientifically proven to increase employee effectiveness, productivity, organizational capacity and competitive readiness. What company couldn’t use more of those?


This is an updated version of an earlier post, originally published March 14, 2016.


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